Budding scientists from the state’s Southwest have uncovered a bacterial shell disease impacting blue swimmer crabs in Bunbury Harbour.
Manea Senior College students identified higher than usual levels of chitinoclastic shell disease while taking part in their authorised routine sampling program.
Students from the school have been monitoring Bunbury’s crab populations for several years to learn about the real-world application of science and help Fisheries WA collect data which can assist in the management of aquatic resources.
Chitinoclastic shell disease is caused by a bacterium that is part of crab’s naturally occurring bacterial flora, which can break down chitin in the crab’s shell and cause lesions to form.
The disease usually occurs in low levels, however, environmental factors, such as water quality, can stress crabs making them more susceptible to infection.
Student Chloe Capp said it was important to take part in science programs that furthered her education while making a real-world contribution.
"While it is disheartening to find that our blue swimmer crabs are affected by such a terrible disease, it is empowering being able to contribute valuable data that will increase the chances of helping the species,” she said.
Anyone who sees an affected crab in areas other than Bunbury Harbour is asked to take a photo if possible (but do not retain the crab) and report the find immediately to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development’s 24-hour FishWatch line on 1800 815 507.